Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Spectacular Spinystar

I've learned to love plants that tolerate heat and drought and still manage to put on a show.  This specimen of spinystar, Escobaria vivipara, was spotted near the railroad tracks about 15 miles north of Crawford, NE.  Last summer I had a chance to revisit some of the locations that were our best collecting grounds in 2010, and I was happy to find that there are still ample opportunities for new collections on future trips.  I didn't collect this beauty, since I couldn't quite reach it. 
Spinystar has some possibilities for use in green roofs. It readily propagates itself by forming small offshoots at the base of each spherical plant body, and these readily detach and roll to a new location where they put down roots and get established.  This particular plant is unusual in that its offsets seem to not detach easily, but stay put to form a nice clump. Usually, this plant is a single cushion with a crown of pink flowers in spring. Flowering was also unusually late for this plant, but that might be due to colder than normal spring weather. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

A Sunflower Wedding

I'm back.  Back from Sioux Falls, where my nephew got married, and back on posting.  I suddenly find myself with some time due to the government shutdown, even though I am excepted from full furlough and have been doing a lot of watering.
Erik and Heather had a beautiful wedding, and she made a wonderful choice of sunflowers as her theme flower.  I had never worked with them before, and I became a fan.  The internet allowed me to direct ship hundreds to Sioux Falls, and I flew in early to condition them and start work.  I was concerned about two things from the start.  I didn't find a foliage that seemed right, so I had to forage for that.  Some asparagus in a ditch near Hurley, SD that had been mowed a few weeks ago and grown again in clean green wispiness solved that problem.  The other problem was a line material.  Sunflowers aren't linear flowers, since there is one round head per stem. 
I found acres of Maximilian sunflowers, Helianthus maximiliani, growing near Interstate 29 near Worthing, SD.  I went early the next morning to request permission to pick, which I was granted, and I harvested about 50 stems for the wedding.  They were growing four to 12 feet tall, and it was amazing to stand in the field of golden yellow, with the prairie wind setting everything in motion.  The lovely curving leaves of this plant also helped to solve my foliage quandary.

Here they are in the church.  The church is modern in style, and the arrangements I made were perhaps a bit informal for the space, but they worked.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Brightly Berried Mexican Dogwood Seedlings

I posted when these Cornus florida var. urbiniana seedlings were in bloom.  Today, they caught my eye when I was out giving a tour of the East Side Interceptor sewer line to folks from the District Department of the Environment and DC Water.

These trees are just a few years old, and they are as heavily berried as a 'Winter King' hawthorn.  They had great fall color this fall, and only lost their leaves last week to reveal the berries.  They taste awful, by the way.  Bitter note after bitter note with just a hint of the melony smoothness of Cornus kousa.

Those who know dogwoods know that the four bracts surround a cluster of tiny yellow true flowers.  Typically one or two of those flowers are pollinated, and go on to become fruits.  This dogwood seems to have been very reproductively successful, with a minimum of four fruits in each cluster, with many bearing seven or eight.

Here you can see the fruits along with next springs flower buds.  It seems like such a long time before they begin to unfurl, but the days will start getting longer next week....